Corker and Shakespeare
I’d first like to point out that the conclusion of this article reads like an ominous manifesto:
“We therefore believe that disability studies has little choice but to engage with these ideas.” (14)
Otherwise, this article was a weighty read. It’s been a while since I’ve read anything about modernism and post-modernism, so I certainly appreciate the refresher course they begin with. However, their description of the two modes is modeled to their argument. They remark that the medical and social models aren’t quite cutting it for disability studies—aren’t sufficiently representing the global experience of disability—and we should expand into the more theoretical approach of post-modernism. The difficulty with viewing disability through a post-modern lens is that the complexities of theory start to make disability studies inaccessible to those with disabilities; the strong connection that exists between activism scholarship risks deterioration. This conclusion hits precisely on the thoughts I was having while trying to keep my brain from exploding and reading through the sections on Foucault, Derrida, Butler, and Lacan. Of course it is fantastic that postmodern theory is so readily applicable to disability studies and it highlights the growth potential of this academic field, but will society actually become a more positive social space for the differently-abled if a bunch of scholars write impossibility difficult papers applying postmodern theory to disability?
This was a doozy of a read. Butler brings the use of the term “queer” into question, analyzing its historical function and attempts at current re-appropriation. She remarks that, no matter how we use a term now, it carries the history of its use in every utterance. Gender performativity also surfaces here in a discussion of drag and also of the interpolating power of discourse. From what I grasp in this article, I think I like what Butler is saying. Her discussion of “queer” recalls Linton’s article on naming disability, not to mention her focus on the “I” of identity formation is something that we often discuss in class. In their article encouraging postmodern/structuralist study of disability, Corker and Shakespeare drop Butler’s name to show how her feminist studies might relate to theoretical disability studies:
“the idea of gender, race and disability as corporeal styles makes it possible to examine how individuals live in their bodies and, in this process, constitute gender, race, and disability in social relations. She emphasizes that performativity must be understood not as a singular or deliberate act, or performance, but rather as the ritualized practice by which discourse produces the effect it names.” (Corker and Shakespeare 10)
This quotation was kind of helpful in clearing up some ambiguities in my brain and helping to connect Butler’s theory of performativity to disability studies. Specifically, this connection makes me think of Heidi’s application where she considered the transability website. Understanding discourse is crucial in surfing the posts, and those considering themselves transabled are engaged in a very particular course of performativity. This is likely a little bit off the wall, but I’m wondering if the performative elements of transabilty and drag are highly similar. Both are deliberate and conscious practices (I think).
Bordo makes a convincing argument for cultural ideology instead of pathology as primary cause of anorexia and bulimia. To press her point beyond the generalization of culture, she specifies that the individuals’ own experience of culture is at issue more than the broad, over-reaching effect of culture on people at large. This argument for socio-culturally inflicted eating disorders among women is certainly in line with the idea that “society determines disability.” Like Butler, Bordo is working from a feminist perspective here. Her approach is appealing to me, and I find her comparison of the victorian ailment “hysteria” to what we currently consider medical ailments of anorexia and bulimia to be compelling. I tend to forget about hysteria, and only recall it amid shaking my head at someone’s everyday use of the term or at its mention in Victorian poem, but it’s very fascinating and convincing, I think, as a disabling result of Victorian culture. That it is also a gendered affliction is the cherry on top of Bordo’s use of it in her argument.
Tremain, like Corker and Shakespeare, argues for a more aggressive application of theory to disability studies. He takes the particular foundations of Foucault’s power relationships and analyzes “impairment,” concluding that “impairment has been disability all along” (Tremain). There’s something irksome about the tone of this article on the whole, but it nontheless offers an interesting application of Foucault. This article recalls Wendell’s presentation of the official definitions of disability and impairment provided the UN. I wonder if an organization like the UN could ever be swayed by Foucauldian or postmodern thinkers…